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Unplug Your Teenager

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Teenager building a campfire surrounded by his family
Family camping

American teenagers today are glued to the television, internet, cell phones and video games. Unlike their parents, who spent most of their free time outdoors biking and playing ball, these children need to be coaxed outdoors for activities. We need to encourage teenagers to go out camping. How do you encourage, entertain and engage technology obsessed adolescents to leave behind creature comforts and look forward to a camping trip with pleasure, as opposed to horror?

A camping trip does not necessarily translate into a cutting of the umbilical cord to technology. The outdoors can prove to be just as stimulating, competitive and fun. Camping promotes family bonding time, involves physical activities for a generation that is tending towards obesity, and develops an appreciation for nature and the outdoors.

A great way to get teenagers revved up about a camping trip is to let them take the lead and make decisions on which activities to participate in. Delegating responsibility makes them feel that they are being treated as adults. Put them in charge of gathering firewood and help them build a campfire. Allow your kids to choose the activity the family is going to engage in, be it swimming or biking, then let them pick the lakes, paths and trails they wish to explore.

A little competition can go a long way. Connect camping activities to some of their video games and make a competition out of it. How about playing some real tennis and fishing instead of simply doing so on Wii? Instead of making imaginary dishes on the Café World app on Facebook, let's cook up some simple, delicious meals for the family out in the open with minimal utilities. Now that's a real challenge!

Some intellectual stimulation can be employed after the physical wear and tear. Be sure to carry along cards, poker chips and popular games, like Taboo and Monopoly for some family bonding fun. A treasure hunt on the campground is another fun game. Pre- scan the area and scatter clues around the site and set them off on a treasure hunt in groups.

Reward your teenagers for coming along and participating so whole-heartedly by giving them some downtime. They are, after all, teenagers, and need some space. Don't begrudge them that, and let them spend a few hours doing their thing. Youngsters cannot function without their brand of music. They can bring along a musical instrument of their choice, like a guitar and have a sing-along round the campfire. Encourage budding photographers to take pictures of wildlife, plants, flowers and trees. This develops latent talent and an appreciation for nature. Give them a few hours off every evening to explore the surroundings on their own, with time and boundary limits.

Unplugging your teenager and cultivating a genuine interest in the Great Outdoors is easier than you think. Simply find a way to relate the activities to things they like and enjoy your next family getaway.

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